In Brussels, the home of a designer inundated with his own vibrant creations
WHEN SWISS textile designer and artist Christoph Hefti worked for Belgian fashion designer Dries Van Noten in Antwerp from the late 1990s to 2010, he was involved in many parts of the process, from fabric design to budgets in through collaboration with Italian engravers. “It was rewarding,” Hefti says. “As a member of the team, we built a vision with a lot of focus and mutual understanding.” When Hefti left the company to become self-employed he eventually became frustrated – he found himself missing out on Van Noten’s holistic approach: “I design the fabric but someone else develops it in the product. final, and I started to realize that it was not enough. I wanted to do something that was completely mine.
In an attempt to recharge his batteries, he embarked in 2011 for a five-week trip to Latin America, from Argentina to Mexico; wherever he traveled he noticed rugs, which were ubiquitous and had been created primarily for tourism purposes. “They were all sized to fit in a suitcase,” he says, “and in tourist markets they all looked more or less the same. But one day in La Paz, Bolivia, he spotted an unusual rug, of unexpected abstraction, that appeared to have been pleated in a pattern of waves bent by Art Deco. When he questioned him, the salesman of the shop replied that he had been woven by “a madwoman of the mountain who never obeys the rules”, he recalls. “She said she only bought the rug because she felt sorry for her. I bought it immediately, and that’s when I knew I wanted to make rugs.
Hefti, 54, shares this story from the dining room table in her 750 square foot apartment in the Saint-Gilles district of Brussels. Despite the size of the apartment, every little square room – a bedroom, kitchen, and living / dining room – looks like immersive theater decor, filled with the designer’s vibrant custom textiles, curtains hanging in multiple windows that line the front of the apartment. A five-storey Beaux-Arts building with carpets covering almost every square inch of the wooden floors. In the living room, dominated by a wildly overgrown dragon tree and a Monstera deliciosa plant, a large rectangular rug depicts six huge blue hands throwing and catching lemons. “For a while, I continued to draw landscapes [that were] indirectly inspired by all the magical realism I read while traveling through Latin America, ”Hefti says. Along with the rugs, the shelves and fireplaces are lined with ceramic objects, including French tea sets from the 1970s and thick-glazed ceramic sculptures made by his friend Belgian ceramist Gregory Georgescu.
ALTHOUGH THIS IS South America that inspired his now eight-year-old carpet business, Hefti produces his pieces in Nepal, with two craft businesses run by descendants of Tibetan exiles who live in Kathmandu. “There is always an exchange,” he says of his makers. “I come up with a design, and we discuss the technical possibilities from there. The pieces are sold in the Brussels design gallery Maniera, which is jointly owned by two friends of Hefti, Amaryllis Jacobs and Kwinten Lavigne. “Rugs are an explosion of colors and textures, but they’re not just about beauty. There is always something disturbing about them, ”says Jacobs, referring to their eerily realistic designs, which include human faces and wild animals.
Most of Hefti’s creative work is done in his studio in a converted industrial warehouse on the Brussels Canal, but he spends his free time between his apartment and a place he keeps in Zurich. The designer regularly commutes between the two cities by train, stopping in Paris to create textiles for fashion houses like Mugler. Switzerland is where he takes care of himself while swimming in Lake Zurich, while Brussels is “the interesting and messy place that inspires my work. I meet creatives, I meet unexpected people, I work until 11 p.m. and I eat fries for dinner. The city’s avant-garde theater and dance scene regularly influences her work, particularly performances by contemporary dance troupe Ultima Vez and performance artists Diederik Peeters and Miet Warlop, both of whom merge elements of horror. and absurd in their practices.
At the end of last year, Hefti organized her own exhibition in Dries Van Noten’s gallery, Little House, adjacent to the brand’s new boutique in Los Angeles. In addition to her rugs, Hefti created a surreal curtain with parts of the face floating in the woods and ottomans upholstered in fabrics in psychedelic colors, all now installed in her living room. The exhibit allowed Hefti to fully manifest her vision, and was made all the sweeter by the fact that it was facilitated by her mentor. “I look around now and see that I have built an object space entirely of my own making,” he says, adding that despite his recent success, he still considers his rugs to be “monsters on the floor. soil with which you become friends. They are often the strangest element in an apartment, but I have found that rugs become friends with the rest of the room very quickly.